Virginia State Police remind motorists to secure unattended vehicles

Virginia State Police remind motorists to secure unattended vehicles

Statistics show keys left inside nearly one in four stolen vehicles

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia State Police Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) program is urging citizens to think twice before leaving their vehicles unattended with the keys inside.

There were 8,103 auto thefts in the Commonwealth in 2015, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that the keys or key fob had been left in 1,890 of those. Virginia State Police Special Agent Peter Lazear said the problem may be even greater than what the numbers show.

“Statistically, we’re seeing that one in four vehicles stolen has the keys inside,” he said. “But we hear it all the time from other law enforcement agencies that it’s more like half of the cars stolen have the keys inside.”

Look around the parking lot of any convenience store or gas station and you’re likely to see at least one unattended vehicle with the engine running, Lazear said.

“And the driver is nowhere in sight.”

Securing your vehicle becomes an especially hot topic when the weather turns cold.

“We’ve reached that time of year,” Lazear said. “People are warming up their cars in the mornings and leaving them unmonitored for minutes at a time. Those are easy targets. It’s also recommended that any items of value be removed from the vehicle or, at the very least, secured out of plain sight.”

To best protect your vehicle, Lazear said motorists should follow a layered approach to prevention. First and foremost, take your keys or take your chances.

“We can’t stress this enough,” he said. “Always lock your car and make sure the windows are closed whenever you’re not with the vehicle. And please avoid the temptation to leave your engine running when you go into a store.”

Second, be sure to activate the factory alarm system. If your vehicle isn’t equipped with an alarm, consider having one installed.

“Alarms make a lot of noise, and a lot of noise draws attention,” Lazear said. “Thieves don’t like attention.”

Layer three recommends using immobilizers or tracking systems. There are a number of products on the market at different price points, Lazear said.

“You may find it to be worth the investment.”

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